Udhampur, Srinagar LS seats go to polls today

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 4/18/2019 1:43:13 PM

# Over 29.81 lakh voters to seal fate of 24 candidates # No cake-walk for Farooq, Jitendra

JAMMU, Apr 17: Fate of former Union Minister and former Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah and Union Minister of State in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh, both engaged in a real `battle of nerves’, will be sealed in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) as Srinagar and Udhampur parliamentary constituencies, represented by them respectively at present, will go to polls tomorrow.
Over 29.81 lakh electorates will vote to decide the fate of 24 candidates, including Farooq and Jitendra, in electoral fray for Srinagar and Udhampur constituencies, where polling is scheduled on April 18 in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections 2019.
The twin constituencies have 2,981,083 registered electors including 1,543,571 males, 1,416,387 females, 21,056 service voters (20,780 males and 276 females) and 69 transgender voters.
Twelve candidates each are in fray for both Srinagar and Udhampur parliamentary constituencies.
Turbulent prospects in the state, coupled with local factors in both the constituencies, have made the electoral fight really competitive. Indications are clear that the fight to retain their seats is not going to be a cake-walk for either of the two. Another similarity in both the constituencies is that they are all set to witness a keenly fought multi-cornered contest.
Interestingly, contest is presumed to be tough notwithstanding that Farooq, backed by ally Congress, is facing political novices in this crucial electoral contest, which may change political landscaping with the emergence of new forces to reckon with.
Nevertheless, the situation is no more different in Udhampur-Kathua-Doda parliamentary constituency, rather it is trickier one as compared to Srinagar contest. Faced with clear anti-incumbency factor, where his performance, too, is being judged as below average and electorate are not too happy, the sitting BJP MP Dr Jitendra Singh is finding it really tough to face the combine might of opposition backing his main opponent and Congress candidate Vikramaditya Singh. While National Conference is an alliance partner of Congress, PDP is also contributing its bit indirectly to help it (Congress) to stay away from electoral arena to avoid, what it had stated, “division of secular votes.”
As if this was not enough, the entry of other two strong candidates Chowdhary Lal Singh of Dogra Swabhimaan Sanghathan and Harsh Dev Singh of JKNPP, if not in terms of winning prospects yet certainly in terms of eating into his vote bank, further made it tougher for him.
Jitendra, in 2014 riding on Modi-wave which helped in complete polarization in this communally sensitive constituency, had attained the status of a giant-killer by defeating the Congress stalwart and former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. How crucial this contest is going to be, can be gauged with a fact that entire top BJP leadership campaigned for him. The party is also facing heat in its political constituency on account of Rasana incident in Kathua and the killings of BJP leader and his sibling in November followed by RSS leader’s killing in Kishtwar district earlier this month.
Nevertheless, barring the Kishtwar town which missed all pre-poll political activities due to the sensitive security situations following the twin killings, the rest of the constituency saw intense campaigning, marked by dozens of rallies, roadshows and public meetings till Tuesday evening. Senior RSS leader Chanderkant Sharma and his PSO were killed by militants in Kishtwar district hospital premises on April 9, prompting authorities to impose curfew in the town.
The star campaigners from the BJP included Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party president Amit Shah, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and general secretary Ram Madhav, who addressed a host of rallies to spur party candidate Jitendra Singh's poll fortunes. To improve the Union minister's winnability, also pitched in cricketer-turned- politician Gautam Gambhir and stand-up comedian Raju Srivastava, who undertook door -to-door and street-corner canvassing, joining the BJP over-arching poll campaign machinery, which managed to put up an impressive show of over 100 rallies. The star campaigner for Congress candidate Vikramiditya Singh included his father and former Sadre-e-Riyasat Karan Singh, his brother-in-law and party general secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, besides several National Conference leaders. To prop up the Dogra scion's winnability, Azad, who played it safe by not contesting himself from this seat, undertook a whirlwind tour of Chenab valley comprising Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban and sought to woo the sizable Gujjar population, which happen to be Muslims, to vote for the Congress. He, in return, promised the community exclusive privileges like free medical treatment, if the Congress is voted to power in the Centre. The constituency is spread over 17 Assembly segments comprising six districts of Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Reasi, Udhampur and Kathua. The constitueny has 16, 85,779 electors of which 1,665,467 are registered as general voters and 20,312 as service voters.
Among the General voters, 876,319 are males and 789,105 females. The service voters include 20,052 males and 260 females, and 43 transgender electors. For the smooth conduct of election in the PC, the Election Commission of India has established 2,710 polling stations. In 2014 General Elections, the number of voters in the constituency was 14,69,072.
Other candidates in fray included Tilak Raj Bhagat of Bahujan Samaj Party, Mohammad Ayub of Navrang Congress Party, Meenakshi of Shiv Sena and Bansi Lal, Rakesh Mudgal, Shaber Ahmad, Garib Singh and Firdous Ahmed all independents. The voting hours have been fixed from 7AM to 6 PM.
Represented by Dr Karan Singh also, the Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency happened to be the Congress bastion till 1996, when BJP's Chaman Lal Gupta, a former Union minister, managed to win it and retain it in 1998 and 1999 elections. He, however, lost it in 2004 to Choudhary Lal Singh of the Congress, who retained it 2009 as well. Chaudhary Lal Singh, however, was denied ticket by the Congress in 2004 after which he joined the BJP and subsequently became a minister the state BJP-PDP government. In 2014, he became instrumental in the defeat of Azad, a prospect which is bothering BJP this time.



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